Learn how to host a virtual Bible study. Discover technology options and best practices for implementing virtual Bible study.

As churches around the world have been forced to close their doors and move worship services online, bible study and small group leaders are trying to figure out how to host virtual Bible studies.

Leaders have lots of questions about hosting virtual Bible studies.

  • What tools should they use?
  • How do we encourage participation?
  • How do we encourage participation during the Bible study meeting?
  • What materials should we use?

In this post, I’ll address each one of those questions and share tips for hosting a vibrant virtual Bible study.

What tools should you use for online Bible study?

Don’t start from scratch if you don’t have to. Find out what tools your church has available for you to use to connect with your group. Do they have a Zoom subscription? Is there an app already in place that you could use to communicate with your women?

Here’s a list of technology tools you’ll want to consider:

  1. Zoom
  2. Facebook Messenger
  3. Google Hangouts
  4. Webex
  5. FreeConferenceCall
  6. Marco Polo
  7. Skype

My recommendation and the one I’m using is Zoom. Zoom is an online video conferencing system that allows women to join via phone or video and participate with one another.

Smaller groups might want to use Marco Polo, Facebook Messenger, or Skype.

Consider the tech abilities of your group, size limits, format, and pricing as you choose your delivery system.  Select an option that allows for video if possible.

Here’s a chart that compares different online connection options.

Online Options for Staying Connected Chart

How to encourage participation

Online or virtual Bible study is going to be outside of the comfort zone of many of your women. Some hand-holding may be required.

  • Provide detailed, written instructions.
  • Share links to tutorials (step-by-step videos are great) to help them connect with the platform.
  • Be a cheerleader! Encourage them to show up.
  • Be patient. It may take a meeting to two for some in your group to get brave enough to turn on their video camera, and some may never do it.
  • You may need to call some of your group members and walk them through the process.

Encouraging participation during your virtual Bible study meeting

The first few times you meet, your group may be a bit timid as they figure out the features and controls available in the tech tool you’re using.

  • Utilize the chat feature if there is one.
  • Start things off with an icebreaker, such as one of these isolation icebreaker questions.
  • Remind your group to take turns talking. Ask them to physically raise their hand if you’re using video. 
  • Ask everyone to mute their microphone when they aren’t speaking as it eliminates distracting background noise and helps everyone hear the person who is speaking.
  • Recruit a moderator to help monitor audio and video feeds. No need in your group going viral because someone forgot their camera was on while they took a restroom break.
  • Share how your plan to spend your time together.
  • Give verbal reminders at the beginning of every meeting – mute your mic, use the chatbox, etc.  
  • Save prayer requests until the end if you’ll be sharing them verbally.

I suggest your first online Bible study meeting be less Bible study and more checking-in. It may have been a few weeks since you’ve seen each other face-to-face. Give them time to share and reconnect.

You may want to ask one or all of these questions:

  1. What are you grateful for this week?
  2. Where did you see God at work?
  3. What was challenging this week?

What materials should we use?

The best option is to continue the study your group was using. See the information below about showing videos, if needed. Familiarity breeds comfort.

If that’s not possible or if you are starting a study from scratch, I encourage you to select a book of the Bible.

Now is a great time to teach your women how to read and study God’s Word on their own! And practically, you won’t need to wait for any Bible study books to arrive to get started. You are welcome to use my READ Bible Study for Groups as a resource to lead Bible study online. Email each participant a copy of the workbook.

If you’re not comfortable leading a study using the Bible, recruit another church member who is a gifted Bible study teacher. You don’t have to, and you shouldn’t, do it all yourself.

Providing opportunities for women in your own church to set up and lead, instead of using an outside resource, will strengthen your women’s ministry.

While your women might have a fondness for a particular Bible study teacher on video, they can be personally influenced by the women in your church. Besides, when we see women in our own church rise up and stretch themselves, it encourages us to do likewise! Maybe I don’t have to be famous to read and understand God’s Word on my own…

Can we show videos?

Many leaders have reached out to me wondering if it’s okay for them to stream Bible study DVD’s online. I do believe it would violate copyright laws. However, I’ve been in contact with some Bible study authors, and many publishers are working to find ways to provide resources for churches that may not have a Right Now Media account. I’ll update this post if I discover any new information.

Several companies are currently offering free access to online Bible study videos, including LifeWay.

You may also want to read:
Virtual Women’s Ministry Resources
10 Tips for Better Video Meetings
3 Keys to Virtual Women’s Ministry
How to Use Facebook Groups for Women’s Ministry
How to Support Your Women When You Can’t Meet Together
Isolation Icebreaker Questions
How to Create a Women’s Ministry Social Media Plan
How to Create Social Media Graphics
Tips for Creating Live and Recorded Video
How to Schedule Social Media Posts